workplace wellness

How to get (and keep!) people excited about yoga at work

Yoga at work. Obviously we think it's a great idea: it's our specialty. (Also, infographic on yoga for blokes here.)

When we did our survey, a fair number of you wanted to know how to get people excited about yoga at work. It's true: running successful and well-attended yoga classes at work can be a challenge, even if you and your colleagues really do love yoga.

So we thought we'd ask the organisers of a couple of the longest-running and most successful MmYoga classes for their expert tips! 

Alyson has had MmYoga classes running consistently in her workplace for about five years; Rosanne for about four.

How do you go about organising for people to get involved? 

Both Alyson and Rosanne use email to gauge interest and inform people about classes, and Rosanne also uses word of mouth.

“About three weeks prior to the end of term, I send out an email to the group asking for their intentions for next term,” says Alyson. “So I need to know if they want to continue, and if so, how many sessions are they wanting to attend,” she says.

Flexibility with the number of sessions helps, Alyson says. At her workplace, the terms are 20 classes long, but participants are able to attend 5, 10, 15 or all 20 of those sessions, which allows them to work around annual leave. 

“I keep a list of email addresses of anyone who has EVER expressed an interest in anything remotely related to yoga,” says Rosanne. “We also have a social yammer network at work and this has been used occasionally with mixed results,” she says. 

Both Alyson and Rosanne say it helps to occasionally open the invitations to classes out beyond the current list of attendees.

“If it looks like I'm not going to get the numbers, I send out a global email to all people in the building, with a bit of a spiel about the yoga,” Alyson says. “I always get a lot of interest from this,” she says.

Rosanne says she has found it useful to have an ‘open’ class towards the end of a term and invite people who haven’t already enrolled in a term to come along and try.

How do you keep them involved?

Alyson says people are more likely to stay involved if they feel like the space is a safe one and that people from all levels within the organisation can feel comfortable in. 

“We also have a bit of fun, and joke around a bit so everyone feels comfortable,” Alyson says. 

Money also comes into it. Alyson says keeping the numbers up means the cost is more manageable for everyone, and this is something she is clear about when she’s organising the classes — which encourages people to recruit their friends and colleagues to come along too. 

Having one term roll into the next helps to keep the enthusiasm up too, Alyson says. (Building a habit helps keep up the enthusiasm in a home practice too — here are some tips about how to do that.)

What are some of the challenges of organising a yoga class in a workplace?

Alyson says that finding the time to keep things going and keep the lines of communication open can be difficult at times because there is quite a bit of organising and chasing people involved. There are also lull periods where the organiser needs to amp up the advertising to get the numbers. Rosanne says it can be difficult sometimes to find an available space in which to hold the class. 

Tips for meeting the challenges

While every work place is different, Alyson and Rosanne have some good general tips for getting around some of the logistical challenges of organising yoga at work. 

“It really is about making everyone aware of it,” Alyson says. “So talk about it, publicise it, get it talked about in the workplace,” she says. Getting the support of the Workhealth team or Occupational Health and Safety representative is useful too.

Being knowledgeable about the bureaucratic ins-and-outs of the organisation really helps, Rosanne says. 

“And, trite but true — professionalism and being courteous always helps,” Rosanne says. 

Unexpected benefits

The challenges of organising yoga at work are worth it though. Rosanne says she’s had good recognition from her workplace for organising the yoga classes.

“I used to worry about the potential for injury (even minor) of a work colleague during a yoga class that I’ve organised,” Rosanne says. “I feel responsible for their safety (particularly for new participants). On the other hand, I also get a nice warm-fluffy feeling thinking that I’ve contributed in a small way to peoples’ health,” she says. 

Alyson has noticed a huge improvement in workplace culture: people from different teams talk to each other, and people from all levels come along - from junior to senior.

Warm and fluffy, plus a better work environment. Yay!

yoga at work

What style of yoga do mm...Yoga! teach?

Good question. We teach what can really be best described as 'corporate yoga'. I.e. people will get challenged, but the pace isn't too fast as it's silly to expect folks to come straight out of work mode & meetings and into a very fast moving yoga class where the risk of injury exists.

 We sometimes call it 'slow power yoga' so that people know they will be doing lots of lunges, squats, and planks, but that they won't be moving as fast as in a traditional vinyasa class.

We do a lot of strength and postural work, too, so people can get through their daily lives feeling more physically comfortable and calmer.

 Here's a sample of how a mm...Yoga! class might look:

  • Start in savasana (lying on your back) with breath awareness
  • shoulder warm ups
  • cat-cow
  • down dog (where we asess what people’s shoulder girdles are doing and their hamstring mobility)
karen down dog
karen down dog
squatting is good for you ass-ana!
squatting is good for you ass-ana!
  • short rest on back, then core work, bridge pose, maybe side plank if appropriate:
  • reclining twist
reclining twist
reclining twist
  • savasana (guided relaxation)

Mind Full, Or Mindful?

Exercise – moderately – to prevent colds & flu

A yellow day, walking down Melbourne's Little Bourke St

We all know that moderate exercise reduces stress and helps keep our immune systems healthy, right? Not tooooooo much, of course, because then your body will get stressed from all the exercise.

Selective laziness, that’s what you need during cold & flu season.

Walking, coffee in the sun, and a bit of yoga. Plus some dark green leafy veg, capsicums and citrus for the Vitamin C.

Happy Autumn, Melburnians!

Trial Results Published: Mind-Body Stress-Reduction-in-the-Workplace

Image

It’s so great when science backs the anecdotal evidence…

According to an email I just received from the American Viniyoga Institute,

The Aetna, Inc. Mind-Body Stress Reduction in the Workplace Trial, recently published in the online version of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, investigated the impact on perceived stress level and other variables with two distinct mind-body approaches. The Viniyoga Stress Reduction Program (therapeutic Viniyoga) and Mindfulness at Work (mindfulness meditation) were each compared to a control group. These programs helped participants significantly reduce their perceived stress levels while improving their ability to respond to stress.

Participants in the mind-body stress reduction treatment groups (mindfulness and Viniyoga) showed significant improvements in perceived stress with 36 and 33 percent decreases in stress levels respectively, as compared to an 18 percent reduction for the control group as measured with the Perceived Stress Scale.

Participants in the two mind-body interventions also saw significant improvements in a biological marker called heart rhythm coherence, suggesting that their bodies were better able to manage stress.

The study found that these improvements occurred in about half the length of time using the Viniyoga Stress Reduction Program and Mindfulness at Work.

The Viniyoga Stress Reduction program is a 12-week therapeutic yoga-based program. Participants in the worksite trial received instruction for managing stress including physical yoga postures, breathing techniques, guided relaxation and mental skills. The classes also provided coping strategies for dealing with stressful events and promoted use of home and office strategies for reducing stress through yoga. The program offered weekly in-person classes, home practice handouts and yoga break handouts for home and office use.

What’s most exciting is that these programs are very similar to the ones we run at mm…Yoga! So, scientific evidence that yoga and mindfulness (and BREATHING properly) really do reduce stress.

x

Nadine